After a strong discussion with my brother-in-law, Ed Gentry, last week, some important ideas are emerging in my heart and mind as we navigate the current trends in Church thinking.
I suggested that in the next 30 years or so, the primary challenge to Christian faith will not be Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or even atheism. It will be Theism. (Moltmann suggests that Christianity and a simple Theism are extremely far from one another.) Agnosticism (to be unsure if there is a God) will run a close second.
Why will Theism (or in some cases, agnosticism) be the challenger in the ring within the community of the faithful? The Church is discovering that it has severely lacked in its creational worldview – the magnificence of love, human aid, social justice, environmental concern and general appreciation for this world in which we live. The world around us has held up a mirror to cranky and pie-in-the-sky go-to-heaven-when-I-die Christianity, and the image has not been pretty. Creation and creationalism (a celebration of this good world), in all aspects human and environmental, are vital verbiage for the Christian vocabulary.
It doesn’t take a Christian to figure out that these things are important, so in many ways, we’re discovering how much we have in common with other human beings who do not believe that the Jesus’ words are true – “No man comes to the Father but through me.” The Church is in recovery, and we are slow. It’s both our curse and our gift to be slow, it seems. I usually believe it is our gift to the world.
So, in an age of tolerance (which can be taken to its own extreme) and understanding, Christians are awaking to the reality that others actually have something beautiful to say in art, philosophy, science and many other fields. It’s a glorious rediscovery that shimmerings of God’s truth are everywhere. We actually like people of other faiths, backgrounds, nationalities and histories – and even find affinities on many levels. We’re getting it, connecting with fellow human beings, and it’s all so thoroughly biblical, GodTrue and JesusRight.
In addition to this awakening, the age has waged it’s battle around the King (Father Raneiro Cantalamessa). Attacks on the person of Jesus being God have been many, and the new incarnations of age-old Gnosticism have railed their attacks on the divinity of Jesus. Jesus, coupled with Mary, DaVinci, Judas and the whole gang have been the subjects of the spiritual tabloids for many a moon these past years.
Many thoughtful Christians, however, they have rallied and sought to academically and credibly address these questions and the onslaught of disbelief. The average Christian has in some way felt strengthened by these helpful challenges and counter-challenges, and yet the air has changed.
I believe the changed air has put a question mark in many Christian’s minds about the “scandal of particularity” – i.e. the specific connection of Jesus with God. In my estimation, this will result not in a disbelief in God (sorry, Mr. Dawkins). Christians see too much glory, beauty and wonder in the world to trace it all back to mud.
Rather, I believe that a subtly diminished view of the biblical Jesus, and an aligning of ourselves with all things eco-, socio-, enviro- and human friendly is beginning to replace (for some) a vibrant connection with Jesus as Lord.
Now, on to the point of this brief post on a vast topic.
For this post, my point is that a rediscovery of creationalism makes us feel like we all believe the same story – Christians and good human beings alike. This has some strong elements of truth in relation to creational ideas, as mentioned above. There is much common ground, and they are all ideas with strong biblical support (love, social justice, care for the environment, care for the poor, ending slave trafficking, etc.). In my estimation, the biblical story, and Jesus culmination of it, is meant to aid us in recovering our true humanity.
However, as Ed shared with me so beautifully the other evening, the Christian’s Redemptive story is not the same as everyone else.
Resurrection. New Creation. A Champion. Sacrifice + Resurrection = Cosmic Salvation. Hope has entered the room. A reason for personal and corporate hope today, and tomorrow. The Cross. Inner transformation and healing by the Holy Spirit. A universe in the final throes of its brokeness, resulting one day in new heavens and a new earth. New Creation. A returning Lord, with Whom we rule and reign. Eden amplified and restored. Death as beginning and not end. Marriage as a sacred act and microcosmic icon of relationship with God.
God-centric and inspired redemption… on and on and on.
As a Christian, we embrace the creational story, and are happily in recovery through the herculean efforts of current and emerging church thinkers, writers and activists. However, now that we realize that we are human beings again, along with the rest of the world, that doesn’t make us all the same in how we view the world in which we live.
Our redemptive story rumbles with an eternal thunder that heals then, now and forever. Jesus is the living Lord who brings this redemptive story to pass at the nexus of our shared past, present and future.
That’s all I have time to write for now, but this should get things started.